10 gifts for the film photographer

Linhof Technica III second version

Ok, now is the time to get yourself that nice thing you want – or to suggest your significant other or your friends to do so.

Here is a small list of what you may want to consider, if you don’t own it already.

Canon Eos 1n

1 – Film camera
~20 / ∞

You didn’t see this coming, did you? 🙂

But, even if you already use a film camera, one that shoots in a different format can be a really nice addition, especially because it will send you exploring new artistic paths.

For a few suggestions, take a look at one of my many previous reviews of specific models or at these posts of mine:

Top film cameras (+1) under 500$

The cheap bastard guide to (film) photography

Contrast filters for black and white

2 – Set of contrast filters

~20 / 40€

Red, green and blue.

No, I’m not talking about a Bayer sensor pattern. Instead I’m referring at the way you control the relative contrast of the colors in a scene using black and white films. Buy them from a good brand, they are cheap enough anyway. Plenty of guides on the Internet on how to use them, but basically each filter decreases the level of intensity (the “blackness”, if you wish) of the corresponding color, increasing that of the complementary one. If you like less dramatic results, you can also resort to yellow and orange ones.

 Nikon Speedlight

3 – Flash
~50 / ~500€

Speedlight or studio light, the choice will depend by the genre you practice and, especially, by where you actually shoot. That said, even a speedlight can be extremely effective once you learn how to use it properly; for this check the Strobist Lighting 101 guide and website.

 Developing tank for films

4 – Tank
~20 / ~300€

If you’ve never developed your own film, especially if you shoot in black and white, you really do not have the faintest idea of what film can actually do.

Buy yourself a developing tank suited for the format of film you shoot, and then come back to read some of my articles on film developing:

How to: semi stand development in Rodinal

How to develop color negatives in C41, the easy way


5 – Film
~3 / ∞

What can be a nicer gift for a film photographer than film itself?

The particular brand, kind and Iso is a matter of taste, of course; but my all time favorites are: T-Max 100, Fomapan and Shanghai GP3 100 for black and white; Kodak Ektar 100 (negative) and Fujichrome Velvia (slide) for color work. And if you really want to cover with an ultra-detailed (black and white) print a 5 storeys building you should definitely check the Rollei ATP…

 Film sleeves, parchment like kind

6 – Film sleeves
~10 / ~50€

With all those films lying around you’ll need some place to store them, don’t you?

Film sleeves come in all sizes, depending on the film format, but in basically three kinds: parchment-like (like in the picture above); transparent (cheap PVC); transparent (costly acetate). Sadly, the best ones are non the cheapest; but thankfully they are not outrageously expensive either. If you are really organized and cheap (I am), go for the parchment-like kind; they are not completely transparent, so you better already know where to look when searching for a particular picture, but otherwise are great. Avoid like the plague the cheap PVC ones; they emit acids that in the long term may eat your precious pictures away!

 Pentax M Macro 50mm f/4

7 – Macro lens
~30 / ~500€

Quite useful per se, at least if you are into close-up photographies of your breakfast 🙂 ; it is almost all you need in combination with a digital camera to be able to “scan” your films.

To learn how to do so just check my previous posts:

Best film scanner: Canon 5D Mark II vs Drum scanner vs Epson V700

How to scan films using a digital camera

Pocket Light Meter logo

8 – iPhone or Android light meter app*
~1 / ~5€ 

Probably the most useful thing ever, given that you already carry a phone with you anyway.

Various options for both Android and IOS users, but for the guys with an iPhone I can wholeheartedly suggest the following:

Review: Pocket Light Meter for iPhone


Sony Nex-3 with flash raised

9 – Small digital camera (to use as a light meter)*
~ 150 / ~350€

Yeah, I know: digital, blah! 😉

But if you manage not to throw up at the mere thought, a small digital camera makes an exceedingly good light meter that, as a bonus, can take pictures (and scan your films, read entry 7 above). For this I would suggest a Sony Nex/Alpha of the 3 or 5 lineup or one of the cheap Fuji; they are all (relatively) inexpensive, extremely compact and really good.

*To get perfect results you will have to calibrate both the iPhone app or the digital camera against the film-camera-developing time/method combo you use, but that is true even of a classic light meter.
To do something like this is quite simple: just shoot on a test roll a series of pictures of a subject of known tonality – best something you can easily check later, like one of your house walls – first at the values as read by the app/digital camera and then bracketing the shots. Shoot at least 3 stops over- and under-exposing, spacing the pictures 1 stop (negative and color films) or 1/3 of a stop (slide films). In the end the correct reading will be the one most resembling YOUR INTERPRETATION of the subject (i.e. not necessarily the one more similar in absolute terms to your subject tonality and brightness).

Lens Tagger Lightroom plugin screenshot

10 – Lightroom plugin

Lens tagger it is an amazing (and donation-ware!) Lightroom plugin that will let you easily sort your pictures taken on film, because it lets you register into their EXIF all the informations you need: lens used, aperture, camera, film, and even developer used with developing times and variations!

The best thing is that it can save templates for each combination, so applying the data to a set of pictures is just two clicks away.


And now happy holidays to everyone!